‘I don’t know how I survived': Retired Palm Coast doctor talks recovering from COVID-19

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. — A Palm Coast doctor who survived COVID-19 has a warning for people who don’t take the virus seriously after he went into a coma.

Dr. Tom Purcell, 72, spent 97 days in the hospital because of the coronavirus.

Read: Orlando Magic player tests positive for coronavirus, team official says

“I don’t know why I survived,” he said. “I had (multiple) systems shut down and they wanted to make me a do-not-resuscitate patient, throw in the towel, and my family said no.”


The retired anesthesiologist said he felt ill around St. Patrick’s Day after attending a dinner party for his daughter’s birthday in Rhode Island. Doctors initially told him it was the flu, and to go home and rest.

But it got worse, and he drove himself to the hospital. The last thing Purcell remembers is being put into a cubicle in the emergency room.

Read: Florida schools to reopen in August: What that will look like in Central Florida districts

He went into a coma and had a tracheostomy done.

“I had no pre-conditions, I wasn’t hypertensive, I didn’t have respiratory problems and I got whacked hard. You got to take this seriously,” Purcell said.

Doctors treated Purcell with hydroxychloroquine and plasma. He got better, and said prayers and support of his family got him through it. At one point, friends and family gathered outside his house to wish him well.

Read: Coronavirus: Central Florida counties, cities with mask mandates

However, the man who used to swim two miles five days a week now relies on a walker to get around.

“Stay healthy, stay safe. And if you feel poorly get in contact with someone pretty damn quick,” Purcell said.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.